Strategy and Trust: Building on the Strengths of Your Team
One of my favorite elements of coaching and mentoring women in leadership is discovering and building on their strengths. Today, I explore a few of the ways a strengths focus can enhance your team’s ability to trust and rely on one another as well as to think and act strategically—practices that can enable you to fulfill your organizational mission.
Honoring team members’ strengths can deepen intimacy and trust.
I once served on a team that had seemed to grow a bit disconnected. In our differences of personality and leadership style, we had begun to work with our heads down, focused on those we supervised and not on one another as a cohesive team. However, as we entered our second year of leadership, we spent an afternoon exploring our strengths. Each person had taken the StrengthsFinder assessment by Gallup (1). We each knew our top five strengths and how they related to our personal leadership. But as we devoted an entire meeting to explore our strengths side by side, we noticed the themes and uniqueness among each person’s leadership makeup and how they formed a portrait of our team as a whole.
Through this process, we began to see the value of our similarities and especially the power of our complementary differences. For example, one teammate had the strength of executing tasks, a strength that was incredibly complementary to the visionary and planning strengths of the others on our team. We realized how much we needed one another, especially in those areas of difference—differences that, without intentionality, could begin to divide us and make us feel underappreciated or misunderstood. Through this tool and our intentional dialogue, we began, instead, to celebrate our differences. This process became a natural invitation for each person to reveal something unique and affirming about our identity as a leader.
What potential benefits motivate you to identify and build on the strengths of those on your team?
An awareness of strengths is vital for strategic teamwork.
Encouraging those we influence or lead to use their strengths is also strategic and energizing. There is freedom in devoting the majority of our time towards efforts that use our strengths. There is also release and regained energy when we focus on maximizing the positive impact of our strengths rather than primarily devoting our time towards improving in areas that we are not as gifted in. Through greater awareness of strengths, we can better organize our team and identify what resources we may need to help us meet needs no one on the team is especially suited to fulfill.
In a Forbes article, Riemer, the former vice president of marketing at Yahoo! shares how knowing the strengths of those on his team led him to make more strategic decisions, such as when he selected a project manager with the strength of Winning Others Over (“Woo”) to oversee a big name marketing client, and the payoff was immense. Riemer explains, “The ability to get the maximum out of people becomes one of the most critical things you do. Either you have an innate sense of what people are good at and how to put them in the right roles, or you need to have tools to help you do that”(2).
Where do you see an opportunity to incorporate strengths-based
team development in your organization?
Using a strengths assessment tool like StrengthsFinder can awaken new excitement, trust, and productivity in teams of any size and structure. We’re excited to hear what you learn from the process!
Photo Credit: Alexandra Wieand; used by permission.
(1) Gallup (2016). Strengths Based Leadership. Retrieved from: http://www.gallup.com/press/176588/strengths-based-leadership.aspx
(2) Adams, S. (2009). The Test That Measures A Leader’s Strengths. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/2009/08/28/strengthsfinder-skills-test-leadership-managing-jobs.html